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Teaching Assistant

Grads need to TA at least two quarters (for grads starting prior to 2015 it was only required to TA once).  Each Fall quarter, the Head TA runs a TA orientation as well as the TA training component of AY205. Shared resources for TAing available here.


Resources for online teaching

General resources about teaching remotely: https://keepteaching.ucsc.edu/.

Everyone is entitled to a pro Zoom account: https://its.ucsc.edu/zoom/zoom-pro.html. Details are in the link, but the general steps are:

  1. Go to https://its.ucsc.edu/zoom/zoom-pro.html and sign in with your gold password.
  2. Download the Zoom client from https://its.ucsc.edu/zoom/zoom-pro.html
  3. You can now log in to https://ucsc.zoom.us/meeting/ and schedule meetings. Meeting tips:
    • You can make recurring meetings for your section / OH so you don't have to send a new link every single time.
    • Enable polling on Zoom settings, so you can create polls (see next bullet list).
    • Enable nonverbal feedback on Zoom settings, so students can see buttons for yes/no/go faster/go slower/etc (see https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115001286183-Nonverbal-Feedback-During-Meetings for more info).
    • You can enable saving chat by default on Zoom settings.
    • You can record the meeting by pressing "Record" in the meeting toolbar.


Some useful features to implement in your sections/OH:


Center for innovation in teaching and learning (CITL)

Campus center offering certificate programs for grad students in pedagogy. Website: https://citl.ucsc.edu/. To see certificate offers, click Programs -> Graduate certificate programs. Brief application required, free of charge. Example topics:

  • Teaching pedagogy
  • Best practices for inclusivity and equity
  • Teaching with technology


UNL astro interactives

Useful physics and astronomy animations and interactive webapps.



Words of Wisdom


From Angie Wolfgang:


A. Misalignment between homework and exams.

CHALLENGE This can go beyond just what material is covered in each.  For example, if the homework requires students to plug-and-chug numbers into formulas, while exams ask students to compare quantities based on the relationships in those formulas, there is a misalignment between the process skills that are tested.  An example of the former process skill (how to use a formula correctly to get a number) is "What is the gravitational force of the Earth on the Moon?", and an example of the latter process skill (how to create a ratio using a formula to reason quantitatively through an abstract problem) is "The mass of object #1 is M.  The mass of object #2 is 2M.  The mass of object #3 is 3M. Which gravitational force is greater: that between objects #1 and #2, that between objects #1 and #3, or that between objects #2 and #3?"  The second skill is often much harder for the students to do because they've typically had less exposure to that way of reasoning.  Thus it is unfair to expect the students to exhibit skill #2 on the exam, when they only practiced skill #1 on the homework.

SOLUTION Give them practice in section with skill #2!!!!  And in general, ask the professor at the beginning of the quarter to see the bank of midterm questions (or previous midterms) in order to identify which process skills the students will need to be able to successfully complete the midterm.  Then give them practice with those process skills.


B. Encouraging critical thinking in a plug-and-chug culture
CHALLENGE The students will often complain that the homework is hard because they can't find the answer anywhere in the book.  They will get frustrated with you, saying, "But we never learned this in class!"  Chances are, the professor explained the concept behind the question in class, and the question is asking the students to apply the concept to a new situation.  An application-type question requires a different, more in-depth kind of understanding than a definition/regurgitated explanation question (check out Bloom's Taxonomy for how this can been the case: http://classweb.gmu.edu/ndabbagh/Resources/IDKB/bloomstax.htm [link broken]). So no, technically the answer to that specific question wasn't gone over in lecture.  And that's the point.  We're trying to deepen the students' understanding of physical phenomena beyond superficial definitions, and we do that by asking the students to create their own solutions using what they learned in class.  So to help with the students' frustration, 
SOLUTION 1) Validate their frustration ("Yes, this homework is hard - I remember when I first started my college science classes I was also presented with questions that I couldn't find answers to in the book, and I got really frustrated . . ."); and then 
SOLUTION 2) Explain to them why those questions are valid things to ask (" . . . but as I took more and more science classes, I began to realize why this was the case.  My professors were forcing me to think in a different way than I was used to - they were teaching me to use what they went over in lecture, not just repeat what they'd explained.  Thus, they were teaching me how to come up with solutions in creative but educated ways.  And we're doing the same thing - we're teaching you problem solving, a skill that is at the core of scientific understanding.")

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